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white washed desk & tutorial


Thanks so much for all of your sweet comments and encouragement in response to my recent big announcement!  I really do feel like I have a huge group of friends who have been with me through this journey and you’re cheering me on.  It’s an awesome feeling and it means a lot to me.

The next three weeks are going to be insane.  I’m getting stocked up for the Lucketts Antique Market, which means lots of shopping, painting, pricing, packing, upholstering, sewing, glittering, gluing…whew!  On top of that, I’m working on rewrites for my book and developing this line of milk paint.  I need to find a way to duplicate myself, so I can get it all done and still make dinner and keep my guys in clean clothes!  I know it’ll all work out.  It always does.

So, here’s the latest piece of furniture I just finished today…


I don’t normally do white pieces, but this one was perfect for a white wash treatment.



If you want to try this technique, the first thing you need is the right piece of furniture.  Pine and oak (medium to light colored woods) tend to looks best with this technique, although darker woods can look really dramatic with this treatment, too.  It’s also best if the piece of furniture has a lot of texture to it.  A deep grain, worm holes, dings, and dents all work in your favor.  This will not look as good on a super smooth piece.  I used milk paint for this project, but you can use latex, acrylic or ASCP.  Just water it down, so it’s thin.

Brush the paint on in the direction of the wood grain.  Then, go back over the painted area and smush the brush into the wood to work the paint into the grain.


Go back over the area and smooth the paint out in the direction of the grain.   Work in small sections, so the paint stays “workable.”



Keep a paper towel handy and wipe away excess paint if it looks too thick.

(I know my mom is looking at my green nails.)  Repeat the process with a second coat.  One of the keys to this finish is applying the paint in layers.



Smushing the brush into the wood on the second coat creates variation in the finish.



Finish by dragging the brush over in the direction of the wood grain.  Once the paint is completely dry, apply a clear wax or matte poly.  This finish would also look great in a soft gray color (a la Restoration Hardware.)



I’m not totally in love with the hardware, but I’m not sure what I would want to replace it with, so I’m just going to leave it alone for now.






I left the inside in the natural finish for contrast when the desk is open.



(Yeah, I know I need to dust in there, still!)


I added a few blue books into the mostly-white arrangement on top to add some color.



…and that is my latest ironstone pitcher.  I love the shape of it.

Have a great weekend!

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  1. I have a desk with the same hardware. I ended up just painting it with the samew white as the desk. Love the dry brushed look and of course love that ironstone!! :)

  2. Love how this turned out.It is a really soft look and I love it.You are getting lucky finding those ironstone pitchers.I don’t find many of those at all.

  3. i second the idea of just turning the hardware white! I think it would good lightened up like therest of the piece…and then you wouldn’t have to replace the hardware either!

  4. Very cute look – I like it:)

  5. AmandaCB says:

    Gorgeous! I would put wrought iron type handles, very much like gate hardware, to add to that rustic finish :)

  6. Teri Fisher says:

    I love the piece, but I have a silly newbie question. What’s the difference between milk paint and chalk paint? Can you do the same type of finishes with both? Thanks!

  7. Helen says:

    I really like what you’ve done with this piece and also a BIG CONGRATS on your exciting recent news!! I will have to try some milk paint someday! Best wishes on everything going better than you could ever imagine!!

  8. This is an interesting way of refinishing a peice of furniture! I kinda like it! 😉 Thanks for sharing.


  9. I love this finish. And I love little secretary desks.

    As for the hardware, I just re-did a desk with that design. I thought about replacing it, but it turns out it’s a non-standard size, and since I didn’t want to refill the holes, I’m keeping what’s there. I think it’ll grow on me.

  10. Beautiful!

  11. Lovely finish and I especially like the new pitcher.


  12. Rondell says:

    First, congrats on your new adventure, I can’t wait to see the shades you will have and the names of them too!
    I love the deske and the milk paint Oh, and the ironstone pitcher too!

  13. Great job, as usual. on the desk I’ve been hesitant about trying milk paint…until now. I can’t wait to see your colors and be one of your first customers. Good luck!

  14. does the milk paint adhere properly without any sanding or primer?

  15. I think white milk glass hardware would look fabulous!

  16. I’m appalled you would show a picture with the interior showing dust! Lol!

    Actually makes us all breathe easier (atchoo…jk) because it shows you’re just one of us, regular ole’ gal. 😉

    That finish reminds me of this product which I’ve only used one but do like it very much and the look achieved.

  17. Love the white wash. I live near the beach and love this look. Beautiful!

  18. Monica in Littlestown says:

    I’m in LOVE with this desk!!! Where on earth do you find such wonderful pieces? Congratulations on your new venture too!

  19. I noticed that ironstone pitcher IMMEDIATELY. I also LOVE the shape of it!

  20. I’ve never tried milk paint, but you’ve inspired me to keep my eyes open for THE piece it would be perfect for..beautifully done!!

  21. Sheila Hagler says:

    I love this piece. Is this a keeper or are you selling this one. Love the new ironstone pitcher also. I know you have probably had a tutorial on the sheet music wreath above but I guess I missed it. I know you are extremely busy but could you work another one into your schedule, please,pretty please. Have a great week-end. Sheila

  22. Ohhhh my goodness I just read about your line of milk paint!!! That is soooo amazingly cool!!!!
    Congratulations!! I cannot wait to try it ~

  23. MM~
    wonderful post!
    just had to tell you about an article in today’s Denver Post regarding Annie Sloan’s recent appearance here to host a workshop at the Colorado Convention Center.! During the Q and A session, she was asked “Which DIY home blogs do you regularly read?”
    A: Well I have to mention “Miss Mustard Seed”” It was started by this woman named Marion in Virginia and is now one o9f the biggest blogs in the world..”
    My first thought..Awesome! I read her blog also!!
    loved it!!
    warmest hugs..

  24. Please PLEASE when you start selling your new line of paint, PLEASE ship to Canada!!

  25. Love the piece of furniture and what you did with it. Even the dust inside looks good!

  26. Gorgeous piece!! Thanks for sharing the tutorial, great tips! By the way, love your green nails! Have a great weekend! Vanessa

  27. love the look,I have done several piecies this way. Paint it with this ASCP Coco first then do Old white. When you sand the look is very a color wash look. A little dark wax or stain…adds to the look. The wreath yes I have made several. MY garlands. I want to send one to you. The way I do is different from many,I sell one on the average once a month. So to mail something to you how is the best way. I am a newbie on my blog and thinking if I have a good month next month,I will have your buddy the Graphic Fairy work on my blog.

    I have told so many of my fellow 90 vendors about your Blog. Simply the best!

  28. Green nail polish! You are right I did notice them.

    Love. Mom

  29. That looks simple enough.
    I was wondering if chalk paint were used for this technique…would it work on RTA-laminate type furniture. I know of course it wouldn’t be as pretty… but do you think it would work?

    • Miss Mustard Seed says:

      i would not do a wash treatment directly over a laminate surface. I would suggest painting in an ASCP base color and then doing a wash over that.

  30. Since you are always working with different pieces. I was wondering if you know of any way to remove the musty smell in a piece of old furniture?? We just bought a 20 drawer (small drawers) old Plumber Supply Cabinet and it smells MUSTY or OLD. Just wondering if you have ever had this issue with some of the old pieces and how you can get rid of the smell? The desk looks GREAT !!……..THANKS!

    • Sandy,

      Put coffee beans in each of the drawers. Keep it closed. Most of the time they will absorb the odor! Also a bounce dryer sheet works too! But coffee beans are the best! Good Luck, Donna

  31. deb malone says:

    I love the paint finish on the desk, it’s perfect! I would consider painting the hardware ascp graphite, just daubing on the handles just for some contrast! I am no professional I’m just sayin

  32. Ah! I love it! and that pitcher is beautiful!

  33. Looks great Marian and congrats on your Milk line paint!

  34. ellery says:

    I LOVE this piece, so simple and elegant! It gives a softer look to an otherwise very heavy piece…..Gustavian swoon….

  35. That is an awesome piece! It’s amazing what you are accomplishing.


  36. Another amazing piece, so exciting to read your blog to see what is coming next. Congratulations on the milk paint line, so exciting.

  37. I am looking forward to trying your new milk paints. I did milk paint years ago (probably before you were born), but whatever I painted with it has long been to the great garage sale in the sky! This piece today is a nice technique, and I have done that, too, with latex paint.

    I think we are all so pleased to see your success. You deserve it!

    A loyal reader, always.

  38. Anissa says:

    The desk looks fabulous Marian. Thank you for yet another great and super useful tutorial. We have a very old Hoosier cabinet we repaired and stripped from old paint layers that’s sitting unfinished in the kitchen. This technique will be perfect for it.

    Congratulation on your paint line! I’m looking forward buying some, especially since a Canadian company will produce it (we’re in Quebec) and that means “local” shipping.

    Remember that 157 years old weathered wall we uncovered in our bathroom? We brushed the old crumbling dirt, plaster, cement and crusted dust from it yesterday using a semi-soft bristles brush. We’re finishing it next week as per your advice. I hope being able to photograph the process and send a link to your Furniture Friday. Is it ok if it’s not really a furniture?

  39. Marian…..your milk paint dresser is gorgeous!!!

    Janet xox
    The Empty Nest

  40. Jennifer says:

    I really love it!

  41. Diane says:

    I love the white wash finish oh an Love those green nails :))

  42. Denise says:

    Have seen all of your furniture that you have done with a variety of paints: ASCP / Milk Paint. I would try both.The desk is so simple and elegant, it gives me a clear idea of what furniture I would like to use on. Love it! As for ASCP I wonder if white over grey with dark brown wax would work .

  43. I just got a pine cupboard and thought that it wanted to be whitewashed! Then I thought – maybe I should greywash it for the Restoration Hardware look. I will be doing one of those! Great minds think alike. I love your desk and love the staging. Beautiful as always….

  44. Elizabeth L says:

    LOVE this look! Thank you so much for the how-to as I’m just getting ready to try a wash on a knotty pine hutch for the first time. If you get a chance to give me your opinion I’d appreciate it, I was going to try to do the wash in aubusson ASCP as it will sit against white siding on our back porch. Would you recommend a deep color for something like that in a wash? I do usually see them in the beachy white and gray tones more than the deeper shades. I just want enough for the knots to show through, but I like the idea (I think!) of the contrast/pop against the (bland) white siding of the house. Would love your thoughts if you have a sec!

  45. I love how that whitewash came out! I’ve never had much success with that technique, but now that you mention it, I’ve only tried it on really dark woods, so that may have been part of the problem. This gives me new hope. Woo hoo! :) And that desk really makes me drool. I love its chunkiness in combination with its pretty curves. So lovely!

    Also, I’m so excited for you about the line of milk paint! The colors you choose for your home are just the ones I choose for mine, so I can’t wait to see which ones you pick for the paints! Can’t wait to get some!

  46. I actually just started refinishing a dresser today but discovered that it had been painted orange at one time and the paint is engrained in the wood and can’t get it out. I was hesitant on painting another piece of furniture white for my bedroom but this might be something I’ll try for that dresser! Thanks for the idea!

  47. MelissaPete says:

    Thanks for the tutorial. i really want to do this to my bathroom vanity. We can’t afford to replace it and it is an 80’s style light wood, perfect for a white wash. I have to laugh at the hardware on your piece. It is the exact hardware on my daughter’s dresser. My mom and dad bought the dresser for my nursery in 1967, and they kept the hardware when they repainted the dresser about 25 years ago. It’s a glossy eggshell color, and I just love it. My daughter loves it too. Anyway, that’s probably why I liked your piece–it had some of my favorite accents. :)

  48. We recently tried this on nightstands and loved this technique. You have been such an inspiration to us. Thanks for your tutorials. You’re the best!

  49. I love this piece, Marian!
    I have a sideboard in my dinning room that I am scared to paint (remember I am new at this)
    and it would look SO GOOD with this technique!
    I am going to find the courage to do it and post on your Friday party!!!!
    I actually love the hardware in your piece.

  50. Pamela says:

    I love all you do…I checked out your piping tutorial., as I tried,,and I use that word lightly,, make piping in a red floral pattern to go on a black and white diamond fabric,,mine was loose,,I did however use the right zipper foot,,but it wasn’t tight like yours. I think I cut my strips too short, 1 inch verses 2.
    I have painted everything that holds still long enough, as I think that paint on furniture mixed with unpainted furniture has so much more personality. My home is more McKenzie-Childs look. Black and White Checks and Florals. But I paint my furniture to mimic theirs, I have a bed that is done with all the frills, and I so wanted to make a fancy bedspread to match,,and it will need piping. So the tutorial was so helpful. I just wonder where you find all the time to keep up with your life..My hat is off to you girl!!

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